Meadows are an important ecosystem for biodiversity. They host numerous native plant and wildlife species, but without natural occurrences, such as fire, these open spaces would revert to forest. Mechanical mowing creates disturbance that promotes invasive plants, one of the greatest threats to the nature of Massachusetts because they out-complete, displace, or kill native species. Non-native species—many introduced to Massachusetts accidentally or on purpose for garden or landscape use—thrive and proliferate in disturbance.
To manage meadows and control invasive plant species, Habitat has incorporated a small herd of resident Nigerian Dwarf goats. The goats happily graze on invasive plants such as bittersweet, buckthorn, and multiflora rose, as well as successional saplings. The hungry herd clears several acres of meadowland each year. By using goats as lawn mowers Habitat reduces the use of fossil fuels, eliminating carbon emissions. Using this strategy, Habitat preserves the current native plant communities by removing invasive plants and encouraging natural propagation.
Sandy Vorce is a nature enthusiast currently employed at Mass Audubon’s Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary. Sandy tends everything from gardens to goats and enjoys working with volunteers of all ages and backgrounds in caring for the property and its inhabitants. She is a former ELA board member and now participates with local Land Trusts and Friends groups.